Sarina Wiegman is delighted to have the opportunity to take on Norway forward Ada Hegerberg at the Women's Euro 2022, declaring her involvement "so good for the women's game".

Hegerberg had been absent from her national team since 2017 following a dispute with Norwegian football authorities over the disparity in pay between their male and female sides.

However, the maiden winner of the Ballon d'Or Feminin has returned to the fold for her country in the run-up to this year's Euros, scoring a hat-trick in her first game back during a 2023 Women's World Cup qualifier against Kosovo in April.

Hegerberg – a six-time Women's Champions League winner with Lyon – did not net in Norway's opening 4-1 win over Northern Ireland but was highly influential and did provide an assist.

She appears to represent the greatest threat to Wiegman's hosts England in their second group game on Monday, but the Lionesses manager would still rather have one of the world's best players involved.

Asked at her pre-match press conference if she would rather Hegerberg was not playing, Wiegman responded: "Absolutely not.

"I think every player from that level, you just hope to be in the tournament because it's so good for the women's game.

"You want all the best players in these tournaments because that helps the game.

"It's so nice to watch and that's our responsibility, too, all of us, to get the best players on the pitch, so people that come to watch the games see the best players."

In Hegerberg's five-year absence from the national team, Norway crashed out at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2017 against England.

Wiegman has not noted any change in Norway's approach for Hegerberg's return but acknowledges she makes the side much better.

"I don't think [Norway] have changed that much," she said. "I think [Hegerberg] is just a quality player that makes the level of the team higher.

"When you put another player in, she fills in her role a little differently than the other one who will play there, and she does a pretty good job."

A year later than planned, the pandemic-delayed Women's European Championship takes place in England this month, at a time when the women's game is enjoying a popularity surge.

Barcelona Femeni packed out Camp Nou twice for Champions League games in the season just ended, in what was the most eye-catching sign of years of steady growth.

Many players who a decade ago would have needed part-time work to supplement their playing wages are now enjoying the trappings of being full-time professionals.

It means these players are physically sharper, more tactically astute, and skill levels are soaring skywards, making Euro 2022 an unmissable prospect.

Here, Stats Perform looks at seven players who could emerge as dominant stars of the tournament.

Alexia Putellas, Spain and Barcelona

Generally considered to be the world's best player, Putellas became the first Spain women's international to reach 100 caps on Friday when she played and scored in a 1-1 friendly draw against Italy. She runs the show for Barcelona, captaining the team, and delivered a flood of goals from midfield. She hit 34 goals across all competitions last season, including a four-minute hat-trick against Valencia, and in the Champions League she was named player of the season, despite her team's 3-1 defeat to Lyon in the final.

Irene Paredes, Spain and Barcelona

If Putellas pulls the strings in the opposition half, it will likely fall to Paredes to organise at the other end of the field, as favourites Spain look to keep it tight at the back. The Barcelona centre-back is set to captain Spain, who are seeking their first European Championship title. After joining last year from Paris Saint-Germain, Paredes helped Barcelona to a polished Primera Division campaign of 30 wins from 30 games, with only 11 goals conceded. Almost 11 years since making her debut in Euro 2013 qualifying, Spain will look for Paredes to lead by example.

Pernille Harder, Denmark and Chelsea

Harder is a serial winner at club level, having won four consecutive league and cup doubles with Wolfsburg before joining Chelsea for a reported world-record fee in September 2020 and adding back-to-back WSL and FA Cup doubles. The classy forward will create chances for others but is also a deadly finisher, scoring 68 goals in 134 internationals. Runners-up last time, Denmark will look to Harder to ensure they are in the mix again this month.

Ada Hegerberg, Norway and Lyon

Hegerberg is the returning Norway heroine, coming back into the fold in March after almost five years in self-imposed exile, having previously been upset by the national federation's treatment of the women's game. A true superstar of the game, the Lyon striker and former Ballon d'Or Feminin winner suffered an ACL injury in early 2020 that kept her sidelined for 20 months, but she is emphatically back now, as she proved when scoring in the Champions League final win over Barcelona – a 59th European club competition goal in her 60th such game.

Beth Mead, England and Arsenal

Once a teenage revelation at Sunderland, now at Arsenal, Mead had to wait until just before her 23rd birthday before earning a first England cap. In the four years since that debut, she has floated in and out of the team, with the Lionesses having serious riches with their attacking options. This could be the Whitby-born player's tournament, with Sarina Wiegman expected to include her in an attacking three behind a main striker. Mead has hit three hat-tricks for England in the last nine months and is also a highly creative player from the flanks. She is one of a handful of England attackers who could light up the tournament.

Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands and Arsenal

Mead's club-mate has enjoyed a stunning five-year spell in the English top flight, hitting a record 74 Women's Super League goals in 89 games. In May, the former Bayern Munich player agreed a new deal with the Gunners, and now she will spearhead the Netherlands' European title defence. Described by team-mate Jill Roord as "an absolute killer", Miedema helped the Netherlands reach the 2019 World Cup final and scored a record 10 goals at the Tokyo Olympics, despite the Dutch campaign ending with a quarter-final penalty shoot-out loss to the United States. Miedema surprisingly missed from the spot, so she is not perfect, but defences will fear her presence over the coming weeks.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto, France and Paris Saint-Germain

The PSG and France men's teams have Kylian Mbappe, and the women have Marie-Antoinette Katoto, a record-breaking superstar in her own right. Both are 23 years old, both have over 100 goals for PSG, and both could lead their country to trophy glory this year. Katoto became PSG's record scorer in the women's game last season, and last week agreed a new contract tying her to the capital club until 2025. There lies another Mbappe parallel, with PSG determined to keep the striker out of the clutches of rival clubs, knowing she is the sort of talent that could make an explosive impact on Euro 2022.

Five years after Sarina Wiegman's Netherlands team triumphed on home turf at the European Championship, Sarina Wiegman's England begin among the favourites to ... triumph on home turf.

Wiegman's switch to coach the Lionesses has served as a key sub-plot to the tournament, which will put women's football in the spotlight throughout July.

It gets under way when England play Austria at Old Trafford on Wednesday, women taking the spotlight in a year when the men's World Cup unusually takes place in November and December.

Almost 120,000 spectators attended games when England's north west staged Euro 2005; however, the overwhelming majority were either at games featuring England, or at the final between Germany and Norway at Blackburn Rovers' Ewood Park.

That meant some games were sparsely attended, with just 957 spectators seeing France beat Italy in the group stages in Preston. This time, with the tournament boosted from eight to 16 teams since England were last hosts, over 500,000 tickets have been sold, meaning near-empty stadiums should be a thing of the past.

Here, Stats Perform looks at what to expect from the 26-day finals.

German dominance gives way as rest of Europe catches up

Germany used to be the queens of the Women's Euros, but their crown has slipped. After winning six consecutive titles, the Germans fell short at Euro 2017 when they lost to eventual runners-up Denmark in the quarter-finals.

It was all rather end-of-an-era stuff, with the rise of professionalism across Europe's most powerful and forward-thinking footballing nations only likely to be further in evidence this year. Germany, of course, are included among those powerhouses, but they have plenty of company now at the top table.

The Dutch hosts roared to glory at Euro 2017, with Vivianne Miedema scoring twice in a 4-2 victory over the Danes in the final, having demolished Mark Sampson's England 3-0 to reach that stage. Miedema joined Arsenal shortly before that tournament and has become the Women's Super League's record scorer while with the Gunners, the defining player of the blossoming WSL.

This is a tournament that was first officially staged in 1984, with Sweden beating England on penalties in Luton after the teams finished tied on aggregate after home and away ties.

From the second staging in 1987 through to 1997, the tournament was staged every two years, with Norway triumphing in 1987 and 1993. Germany – and West Germany in 1989 – otherwise swept the board and continued to do so when it became a quadrennial championship.

The mighty Germans dismissed England 6-2 in the 2009 final in Helsinki, with a Lionesses team that included Alex Scott, Kelly Smith, Karen Carney, Eni Aluko, Fara Williams and Casey Stoney overwhelmed. Another survivor from that match, veteran midfielder Jill Scott, features in Wiegman's squad this year.

Mighty Spain top list of trophy contenders

Spain are favourites with the bookmakers, and what a team they are, built on classic foundations of players from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Their sensational midfielder Alexia Putellas could own this tournament, but the Spanish rise was checked by Barcelona's stunning defeat to Lyon in the Champions League final.

French outfit Lyon have been established titans of the women's game for years, but Barcelona looked to have surpassed them, winning all 30 of their Primera Division games last season in a display of their might. Yet on the biggest club stage of all, Barcelona, with their many Spain stars, were caught cold and slumped to a 3-1 loss.

That should give Spain's Euros rivals some hope, as should the blow that Spain suffered when star forward Jennifer Hermoso was ruled out by a knee injury.

There are plenty of credible challengers, with hosts England among them. Since Wiegman replaced Phil Neville, England have won every match under their new coach, including a 5-1 victory over the Netherlands at Elland Road in June, and they should be able to handle group games against Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland.

Expect the familiar European giants to contend. Women's football is gradually becoming big business, and the richest countries are building the best facilities and funding the game on a professional level, which is a far cry from how the game was a decade ago.

England go Dutch, Dutch go English, Scandinavians on a mission

France have left national team greats Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer out of their squad, so how they cope without that illustrious duo remains to be seen, while England are without long-standing former captain and defensive mainstay Steph Houghton, who was judged not fit enough by Wiegman after an injury lay-off.

The hosts have Barcelona's new recruit Lucy Bronze, another rock of their team for many years, while the likes of winger Lauren Hemp and strikers Ella Toone and Alessia Russo should announce themselves on the big stage. Not for the first time, England look forward-heavy, with question marks over their midfield strength. New captain Leah Williamson attended the last Euros as a fan, so this is a significant step up.

While England are coached by a Dutchwoman, the Netherlands are bossed by Englishman Mark Parsons, who had a long spell with the Portland Thorns before replacing Wiegman. The reigning champions are contenders again, given the presence of Miedema and the mercurial Lieke Martens, who has traded Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in the off-season. The thumping by England was a jolt, but don't read too much into that result.

Denmark's Pernille Harder and Norway's Ada Hegerberg are superstar strikers in teams that might cause a surprise, Sweden sit second in the FIFA rankings so rightly fancy their chances, and then you have Germany. The eight-time winners lack the star power of their rivals and must play Denmark and Spain in the group stage, but their squad is packed with experience, so count them out at your peril.

Lyon secured a record-extending eighth Women's Champions League title with a 3-1 victory over Barcelona on Saturday at the Allianz Stadium 

Defending champions Barca had only lost one competitive game all season but found themselves three goals down after first-half strikes from Amandine Henry, Ada Hegerberg and Catarina Macario. 

Blaugrana captain Alexia Putellas pulled one back just before the interval, but Lyon controlled the second half in Turin to ease to another European success. 

Lyon required just six minutes to take the lead as Henry scored an incredible solo goal, dancing inside from the left before firing a remarkable, long-range effort into the top-right corner. 

Jennifer Hermoso was denied by Christiane Endler as Barca looked to respond, but Lyon struck again when Selma Bacha crossed for Hegerberg, who headed in her 59th goal in 60 Champions League games. 

Hegerberg almost added a third but Sandra Panos raced out to thwart the striker, who turned provider in the 33rd minute by teeing up a simple tap-in for Macario. 

Putellas reduced the deficit by volleying home Caroline Graham Hansen's right-wing centre, while Patri Guijarro hit the crossbar with an audacious strike from the halfway line after the interval. 

Barca substitute Asisat Oshoala headed a golden opportunity wide and Hegerberg saw a stoppage-time volley hit the post as Lyon cruised to victory. 

Ada Hegerberg revelled in making an "incredibly beautiful" return to Norway duty by scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Kosovo. 

Inaugural Women's Ballon d'Or winner Hegerberg opted against playing for her country in 2017 due to a perceived lack of respect for female players from the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF). 

The 26-year-old reversed her decision following the appointment of a new NFF president, returning with the European Championship just three months away. 

And she made an emphatic comeback, nodding in Caroline Graham Hansen's cross for the first of two goals in the space of two first-half minutes. 

Hegerberg completed her hat-trick on the hour mark to help keep Norway three points clear of Belgium in World Cup qualifying Group F. Frida Maanum and Ereleta Memeti were also on target in Sandefjord.

"It is a pleasure to play for the national team again. It is an incredibly beautiful thing," Hegerberg said, who moved onto 41 international goals. 

"It's a new chapter. It was very good to play at home again. It's been a great day." 

Asked how long she envisaged representing Norway for and whether she could surpass Isabell Herlovsen as the nation's all-time leading scorer with 67 goals, she replied: "One match at a time! But I'm 26 years old. I expect to be in the game for a while longer. 

"For as long as possible. As long as I can remain a leading player in the game and have the motivation to keep going, I will continue." 

Ada Hegerberg has ended a five-year exodus from the Norway national team after the Lyon striker was named in Martin Sjogren's squad for next month's World Cup qualifiers.

The 26-year-old has not played for her country since 2017, having made herself unavailable since then in a dispute over the progression of the women's game back home.

During that period, Hegerberg has become the Women's Champions League all-time top scorer and won the inaugural women's Ballon d'Or in December 2018.

She controversially sat out Norway's last World Cup campaign, at France 2019, as the Grasshoppers were knocked out by England in the quarter-finals.

Since then, Hegerberg has also endured the best part of two years out of action with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

But with Norway preparing for the rearranged Euro 2021 tournament in England and next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the striker has made herself available once more.

"Go Norway," the forward tweeted, complete with the Norwegian flag, on Thursday, shortly after the Norges Fotballforbund (NFF) had confirmed the squad.

Norway sit top of their UEFA qualifying group, and will play Kosovo and Poland next month.

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